Ukraine may offer helicopters for Darfur - UN's Ban
International peacekeeping mission badly needs helicopters
Ukraine might offer badly needed helicopters to an international peacekeeping mission in Sudan`s war-ravaged Darfur region, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
"President Viktor Yushchenko and I explored the possibility of deploying Ukrainian military helicopters and personnel to Darfur," Ban told reporters at a news conference.
"We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian defense minister in New York last week," he said. "These efforts are continuing."
The joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force is responsible for keeping the peace in a region roughly the size of France, but, with fewer than 10,000 soldiers and police, it is far short of its promised strength of 26,000 personnel.
Western diplomats, U.N. officials and human rights groups say the force remains so small due to obstruction from Sudan`s government in Khartoum, U.N. bureaucracy and a shortage of helicopters and other transportation equipment.
U.N. officials have repeatedly urged countries with appropriate helicopters to offer them to the peacekeeping mission but the appeals have gone unanswered.
It was not clear whether Khartoum would accept the Ukrainian help. Although there are some non-Africans in UNAMID, the Sudanese government has resisted the deployment of peacekeepers from outside the continent.
At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in five years of fighting in Darfur, international experts say. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.
Ban was also asked if it would help bring peace if the U.N. Security Council suspended an International Criminal Court prosecutor`s request to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur.
Ban said he was aware of concerns expressed by the African Union, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference states -- who have all said indicting Bashir could torpedo the fragile Darfur peace process.
He urged the Khartoum to "cooperate fully" to ensure full and swift deployment of UNAMID, and said it should also take "very credible judicial measures" to meet the requirements of the Hague-based ICC, "whose decision and judgments should be respected and protected."
Sudan has hinted that it could expel UNAMID forces if the ICC judges indict Bashir. Khartoum has said it would never cooperate with the ICC and dismissed as politically motivated both the investigation of Bashir and earlier indictments of two others for alleged Darfur war crimes.
The ICC judges are not expected to make a decision before next month. Four Security Council members have indicated they could support a suspension of the ICC moves against Bashir.